They told me heroes were broad-chested,
brave. They told me heroes came
on dashing steeds, with magic swords,
to fight a final battle with a dazzling foe.
I’m finding now that heroes come
in different shapes and guises. My neighbour’s one –
handing out flowers, making smiles. I work
with many, keeping going, day after day.
A hero comes with mail, another stacks a shelf,
another steps into a house with smiles
and sunshine, and a plate of food,
a paper mask, a pair of gloves, and love.
Heroism’s something small
and every day. It’s special, but it’s nothing special.
Men brought up without women,
men brought up without families,
men told to button up, man up, step up,
shut up, shut down, calm down –
men taught to deny themselves –
told us that heroes did all that. They built up
heroes in their own stone image –
heroes in uniform, heroes who flung themselves
headlong into the battle –
manned up, stepped up, shut up –
and we believed them.
We lived inside the battle story
for too long. We built walls,
buttressed our lives, shut up, shut down, shut out.
There are things that penetrate –
the smallest things. Viruses, glyphosates, fears.
We didn’t even notice them,
until we were surrounded.
We need new heroes. We are spotting them –
they are the ones with shining threads,
connecting them to others. They’re the ones
nurturing their children, teaching love
and laughter. All those old stories. Feeding us.
The ones finding new ways to love,
new ways to show their kindness. Spinning
new threads. We need connection now.
A poem about heroes for Brendan at Earthweal. If you haven’t been over there, check it out. It’s a space to think about our bruised and beautiful planet, to think about ways of changing things. Every week I think “I have nothing to say about this”, and then gradually something emerges that feels urgent and important. I’m not sure I say anything terribly new, but a chorus of voices saying the same thing makes a loud, compelling noise. We put our words out there, and they make unexpected journeys, journeys we will never know.